Monday, May 2, 2011

brain ghosts

So, I wanted to mention two things that came up over the course of the weekend at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, because they're kind of like these ghosts that haunt my head as far as writing is concerned.

And I'm pretty sure my ghosts speak in a different language than the ghosts in other writers' skulls.

1. Writers get asked this question so much. Sorry, but it's a real yawner. So are most of the responses I hear. They're like robocalls or something. I need to hang up on them when they start. I need to get on the national "do not ever ask me this... and, worse yet, do not ever make me listen to the same answer again" list. It's the "advice for aspiring young writers" question.

My response: Don't suck.

Honestly. Why don't people tell you that more often, as opposed to robo-answering about revisions, crit partners, joining supportive organizations, or becoming an alcoholic?

Just don't suck.

Also, you should probably listen to your teachers and professors. All the way to the end of your MFA program, if that's how far you're going to go. They do not necessarily know everything, but their tormenting constraints on your unbridled desperation to do things your own way will force you to be a better writer once you are free of their oppressive demands.

And then you won't suck.

2. Second question we get asked all the time: the "writing for teens/young adults" question.

My response: I don't write for Young Adults. I just write books.

When I said that, people applauded.

I'm like, what? Hasn't anyone told you that before?

I realized that I'd never willingly read a book that was intentionally written for kids. I am not a kid. But there are lots of books out there that young adults like -- not because they were written "for" them, but because they are good books.

Some of them are called "YA." I just call them books.

And they're the ones that I'd read.

I don't mind that things that I write are called "YA," if it makes people feel all comfortable and stuff.

I just call them "books."

There isn't anything that you'd find in an "OA" book that you would not find in my books.

Now go forth and don't suck.